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Ambushed by a fake: The incomprehensible appeal of Boris Johnson

Ambushed by a fake: The incomprehensible appeal of Boris Johnson

I’ll never understand the appeal of Boris Johnson: the overgrown schoolboy with the over-developed sense of self and an evidently over-active libido; his affected mannerisms, the messed-up hair, shirt-tails hanging, and the performative jogging in his woolly hat and flowery swimming shorts. It all smacks of a scruffy poshness, a devil-may-care attitude that only the over-privileged can ever fully indulge in.

But at its rotten heart is his artifice. He is a conman who has carefully constructed a loveable buffoon persona that his party has long invested in, a seemingly affable joker whose antics would be more at home on the set of a ‘Carry On’ film than in No 10, and yet, who has a broad popularity that affords him the platform not only to act like a fool, to lie, and to blame others, but always to be forgiven with the well-worn excuse of, ‘Well, it’s just Boris’. 

This established pattern took root in his childhood and is one which he has never outgrown. He wanted to be ‘World King’ and in his world, everything, and everyone, revolves around him. He is there to entertain, to distract and to bluster. And his blonde ambition knows no bounds. He is on stage, in the spotlight, and he loves to perform.

And even now when his lies are exposed, when his job is on the line, the defence is the ridiculous notion that he was ‘ambushed’ by a cake. And even when he resorts to playground name calling to shut down his opponents with personal jibes, still his acolytes surround him with a sycophancy that smacks of Stockholm syndrome, rooted in their need for personal survival.

And at a serious time, – when Johnson should be being judged for his abysmal handling of Brexit, for presiding over the worst Covid mortality rates in Europe, for his defence of Owen Paterson in an outrageous lobbying scandal, for a cost-of-living crisis, for the claims of blackmail by his party whips in strong-arming MPs, of accusations of billions of pounds of fraud during furlough, for the millions dished out to party donors in rushed PPE contracts, for murky interior design funding arrangements, for illegal gatherings, and dogs being evacuated out of Afghanistan before people, – instead, he is being outed for a cake. Quite possibly a Colin the Caterpillar cake. 

This is pure Boris and if it isn’t the end of him, then it is shameful, but depressingly, experience tells us that quite possibly, he’ll hang on.

An instructive tale: A friend was party to the infamous zipwire incident – a photo opportunity which resulted in the then London mayor being suspended five metres above a park in east London in an eye-watering wedgie, legs akimbo, feet splayed, while still waving two fluttering polythene Union Jack flags and wearing a goofy smile. He looked for all the world like a clown.

And the whole spectacle occurred only because Johnson refused to reveal his real weight to the machine operative which would have allowed physics to keep the whole shebang balanced and moving. His economy with the truth caught up with him that day and quite literally saw him hoist by his own petard. 

Did he care? Did he buggery. He loved it. He lapped up the attention.  This was Boris, game for a laugh, man of the people. 

But even that is bound up in a lie. For despite all his best efforts to play the fool, to make himself popular, and to present as an ally of the Common Man, the one on their side, cocking a snook at the establishment, raising a clenched fist to authority, Boris Johnson is the very embodiment of entitlement. And everything, from his carefully crafted dishevelment to his disregard for the dignity of high office, to his thinly disguised prejudices, cannot truly divorce him from who he is, and what he represents. And that is the establishment. White, bloated, and privileged. And a narcissist who only ever plays by his own rules.

This is pure Boris and if it isn’t the end of him, then it is shameful, but depressingly, experience tells us that quite possibly, he’ll hang on.

And for that his party lauds him. Even Baroness Davidson, now so vocal in her convenient condemnation of his character, was once a playful chum, making him the subject of her grubby, post-Brexit, sexual innuendo, when she talked about ‘withdrawing our massive Johnson’ while ‘Labour was still fumbling with its flies’. All of this, predicated on the basis that everyone knows what Boris is like, so, what’s not to enjoy and to forgive?

Well, who’s laughing now?

But there is, of course, a pathetic inevitability about all of this. How could you invest so heavily in a man whose stock-in trade has been in being a chancer, and then be surprised that it ends with the police knocking on his door?

Johnson has made a mockery of all our lives. And while Sue Gray may still be waiting to push ‘send’, she must know already, in her heart of hearts, that whatever her conclusion on ‘partygate’ is, Boris Johnson behaves very badly, is an inveterate liar, a terrible leader, and a British prime minister who is using a Russian president as a shield against accusations of his tyranny levelled at his own MPs. 

How bizarre this country has become.

But it would be naïve to believe that if Johnson goes everything will be OK, that fractures will be healed, and we will all go back to normal. Johnson didn’t create the disengagement that Brexit feasted on. He didn’t start us on a journey of political debasement or sow the first seeds of division that has pitted communities against each other and fuelled an atmosphere of hatred and prejudice for ‘others’. 

He didn’t start this crisis of confidence in politics or diminish our faith and trust in politicians, but he has profited from it, and made it worse. And that’s what Johnson’s legacy will be. For despite all the arguments about his leadership through a pandemic, for all the claims about vaccine rollouts and a successful booster programme, what people will remember is that you can’t trust a politician. And like all Big Dogs, Johnson will leave others to clear up that stinking mess behind him.

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